The Lipsey’s Exclusive S&W 432 Ultimate Carry and the Case for the .32 Revolver

Despite all the advances of autoloading pistols, there are niches in which there is no advantageous substitute for a revolver, particularly the small framed snub-nosed revolver. Unfortunately, ammunition diversity can limit the carryability and shootability of a platform that should be otherwise straightforward to run. The .38 Special is the most popular round in this category, but it is a relatively powerful round that gives heavy recoil and muzzle flip in lighter-weight guns. It gets worse with the .357 Magnum. The humble .32 has risen, fallen, and risen again.

In 2024, the caliber was on the margins once again, but that did not stop Smith & Wesson and Lipsey’s Distributors from teaming up to release the new S&W 432 Ultimate Carry.  As a fan of the .32, the new 432 UC gave me a chance to revisit an old friend in a new platform to see if the round and revolver make the mark.

s&w 432 ultimate carry revolver
The all-new Smith & Wesson 432 is a beautiful example of the modern .32.

.32 Caliber: A Family Affair

As Americans, we have a love affair with big-bore cartridges like the .44 and the .45. But for every big-bore or service caliber handgun we buy, smaller calibers tend to outsell them. For every .45 ACP or 9mm handgun purchase out there, how many more are buying small guns in .380?

It was no different in the 19th century. The cap and ball era was dominated by the likes of the .36-caliber Colt Navy and the .44-caliber Colt Army revolvers. But the little .31-caliber Colt Pocket was the most popular repeating pistol of the era.

The leap to the cartridge era changed the ammunition but not the mindset. Most people wanted to conceal carry and did not want to bother with a larger gun. The .32 S&W came around in 1878 and was so popular that the ammunition can still be found. This round also served as the basis for the .32 ACP autoloading pistol cartridge.

iver johnson safety automatic
.32 caliber revolvers, like this Iver Johnson Safety Automatic in .32 S&W, were popular in their day for concealed carry and enjoyed very long production runs. Now, most small revolvers meander between .22 and .38 caliber.

The .32 in the 20th Century

At the turn of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for Eastern policemen to carry small .32 S&W revolvers. But in a bid to keep the shoot ability of the .32 while improving its power, the .32 S&W Long was developed in 1896. The .32 Long would go on to international repute as a target cartridge and for the first few decades of the twentieth century, Colt and S&W revolvers chambered in the round were standard issue for law enforcement personnel through the 1930s.

The .32 S&W Long remained popular domestically in small-framed carry revolvers but began fading into obscurity when H&R sought to push the .32 Long’s power envelope by developing the .32 H&R Magnum in 1984. The 1980s saw a transition from revolvers to autoloading pistols amongst police, followed suit by civilian shooters as well.

The round was largely a nonstarter, but that did not stop Ruger from singing the same song when they introduced the .327 Federal Magnum. It featured a longer .32 Magnum case that had thicker walls and was loaded to higher pressures. Because of its case lineage, revolvers chambered in .327 can fire the older .32 Magnum, .32 S&W Long, and .32 S&W short cartridge. The .327 was introduced in 2007 and it is, at best, a mild success that is nurtured by Ruger in cooperation with Lipsey’s Distributors out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The .327 briefly saw use in revolvers by S&W, Taurus, and Charter Arms, but production quickly ceased, among them the S&W 432 in .32 H&R Magnum.

The New Lipsey’s Exclusive S&W 432 Ultimate Carry

Smith & Wesson launched revamped versions of their Model 432 and 442 revolvers and billed them under the Ultimate Carry moniker due to a series of upgrades not commonly available on small revolvers to optimize them for the shooting experience. The 432 is a six-shooter chambered in .32 H&R Magnum while the 442 is a five-shot .38 Special.

As a longtime fan of Colt Pocket .31s, break-top .32 S&W revolvers, and small S&W revolvers in .32 Long, I jumped at the chance to get reacquainted and learn my way around a new-to-me round, the .32 Magnum.

s&w 432 barrel
The 432 UC has a stainless steel 1 7/8 inch barrel sleeve covered by an aluminum shroud that fully protects the ejector rod.

The new Model 432 UC carries six rounds of .32 H&R Magnum in the same package that would hold five rounds of .38 Special. At first glance, the fully shrouded ejector rod, sleeved barrel, and titanium frame pins struck me as one of Smith’s scandium frame revolvers. It is not. The 432 uses a carbon-blued cylinder and an anodized aluminum frame that uses titanium pins for added lubricity of the internal parts. The pins are also much tougher than the usual hidden aluminum or steel pins that could be deformed when removing the side plate of the revolver for cleaning.

s&w 432 ammunition
The Model 432 UC is compatible with a whole host of J-frame grips, holsters, and spare parts. For quick reloads, the HKS 32-J speedloader is a must.

Sights and Other Features

Instead of the standard fixed gutter sights normally found on snubbies, you get a pinned XS Tritium front sight paired with a dovetailed U-notch rear for quick target acquisitions in very low light. The revolver comes with a pair of wrap-around grips with a high arch over the backstrap so the hand can be placed as high as possible on the grip for maximum control over both the trigger and the bore axis for both a better trigger press and less felt recoil.

s&w 432 drawing
The 432, like any other double-action-only revolver, will not snag on the draw.

The 432 UC revolver is available with either a gray or black anodized frame coupled with black and gray or cherry black VZ G10 grips. Both versions are double-action-only revolvers that lack an exposed hammer that would otherwise snag on the draw. Each comes with polished and deburred internal parts that reduce the trigger pull effort and weight to a smooth eight pounds.

Shooting the S&W 432 Ultimate Carry

Snubbie revolvers are a simple safety-less platform that are mostly insensitive to the kinds of ammunition you put into them. That makes them great as either a primary or secondary carry handgun. But the combination of a heavy double-action trigger pull and low-profile sights make them hard to shoot, while the typically small grip and potent chamberings make them hard to hang onto without needing an aspirin.

s&w xs sights
A look down the sights of the 432 UC. The 1/2 steel torso is ten yards from the muzzle.

The 432 UC takes these problems head-on. Although the XS Sights are large for shooting at bullseyes, their high-profile nature and the inclusion of a tritium front sight make them easy to find in a flash, even in the dark.


On the range, I could reliably produce six-round groups inside one inch at 10 yards, shooting either .32 S&W Long or .32 Magnum ammunition. Outside close ranges, the trigger and grips come into play. The VZ G10 grips fill the space between the trigger guard and the front strap of the grip frame, allowing you to keep a firing grip on the revolver between shots. The trigger is long but smooth and I could connect with a 1/2 size steel torso out to 25 yards without any misses.

A six-round group posted with the 432 UC from a distance of 10 yards. The ammunition used is Hornady Critical Defense .32 Magnum 80 grain FTX.

Shooting from arm’s reach out to 25 yards was made that much easier thanks to the 432 being…in .32. The .32 ACP cartridge is a semi-rimmed cartridge that can extract with the ejector rod, but the projectiles are .311 inches, and .32 caliber revolver rounds tend to be sized to .314. As such, I garnered poor accuracy and velocity with .32 ACP 60-grain PMC Bronze, an otherwise excellent round in an auto pistol.

Most of my shooting was done with S&B .32 S&W Long wadcutters and several types of .32 H&R Magnum ammunition, including the Hornady Critical Defense 80-grain FTX load. The .32 S&W Long rounds had less noise than .22 LR and about as much recoil. The .32 Magnum rounds were powerful enough to feel some blast on my face with every shot, but my sights barely moved. The accuracy between all the revolver ammunition I tried was virtually identical and the shooting experience was identically pleasant as well.

The Power of the .32

If a handgun is pleasant to shoot, it probably won’t be a chore to practice with. But the most pleasant firearms to shoot are also among the least powerful. While it can be said that having a gun is better than not having one at all, knowing a round is capable instills both confidence and competence.

.32 magnum cartridge comparison
From left to right: .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Magnum, and .38 Special.

Historically, the .32 S&W has been proven to be extremely lethal despite its light ballistics compared to modern rounds. But even the later .32 S&W Long and .32 Magnum appear light.

Over my chronograph, the S&B .32 Long 100-grain wadcutters were humming along at an average velocity of 646 feet per second. The Hornady Critical Defense 80-grain FTX .32 Magnum load came in at 902 feet per second, while the Federal 85-grain JHPs I had on hand clocked in at 936 feet per second. Overall, the .32 Magnum is traveling faster than a comparable .38 Special or .380 ACP round but doing so by using a generally lighter-weight bullet for comparable energies.

Penetration Through Clothing

The .32 does have the advantage of having a heavy-for-caliber bullet that, in theory, can yield more penetration. To find out how much, I set up a block of Clear Ballistics 10% gelatin block fronted by four layers of denim.

From a distance of 10 feet, I fired three wadcutters followed by three Hornady rounds into the block. The wadcutters punched through the denim and tumbled, leaving excellent stretch cavities in the muscle tissue simulant behind it. Despite its low velocity, two wadcutters punched completely through all sixteen inches of gelatin and kept going. One round was recovered sideways at the 12-inch mark. The Hornady FTX .32 Magnum rounds were not going fast enough to mushroom, but all shed their polymer tips in the gelatin. Two rounds sailed through but one was captured at 15 inches.

.32 ballistic gel
The wound paths of three .32 Magnum rounds (foreground) and three .32 S&W Long rounds (background).

Although both rounds are not comparable to larger rounds like 9mm Luger, I have seen worse out of some .38 Special or .380 loads. The .32 Long and .32 Magnum are also far superior to the .22 rimfire without much added recoil.

The S&W 432 and the .32 As A Defensive Option

After about 300 rounds downrange, I can attest that the S&W 432 UC is an excellent revolver. Indeed, the inclusion of high-visibility sights, clean yet hand-filling grips, and the .32 Magnum cartridge make it perhaps the best concealed carry revolver you can buy. From what we saw, the Model 432 has the features a modern shooter would need for snubbie success. We also saw that the .32 S&W Long and the .32 H&R Magnum have more punching power than their sedate ballistics suggest.

But there is no such thing as a free lunch, and there are downsides to every platform. Although this revolver might stem the tide, .32 caliber revolvers and their ammunition are not nearly as popular as they once were. As such, you have to deal with more expensive ammunition and few new handguns. The new 442 UC in .38 Special has all the same upgrades but in a popular round. The 432 in .32 Magnum is not fully fleshed out in any case. It is not chambered in the longer and more powerful .327 Federal Magnum. But when taken holistically, the .32 H&R Magnum and the Smith & Wesson 432 UC represent the best balance of features, power, and control that the world of pocket pistols sorely lacks.

Terril is an economic historian with a penchant for all things firearm related. Originally a pot hunter hailing from south Louisiana, he currently covers firearms and reloading topics in print and on his All Outdoors YouTube page. When he isn't delving into rimfire ballistics, pocket pistols, and colonial arms, Terril can be found perfecting his fire-starting techniques, photographing wildlife, and getting lost in the archives.

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